Our Reading Lives

Canadian Book Lover Problems

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

The online book community is a wonderful place for meeting new people and gushing about our favourite books. But if you live anywhere other than the USA, you begin to notice that despite being a global platform, the internet and everyone on it is usually assumed USAmerican until proven otherwise. I won’t deny that Canadian and USAmerican book lovers have a lot in common, but there are a few things that set us apart. Although there are plenty of great things about living in Canada, here are a few problems we have that other southern neighbours don’t have to worry about.

1. The astronomical shipping costs

In the US, they have this wonderful thing called Media Mail, where books can be shipped so cheaply it would bring a tear to your eye. The US has the lowest shipping costs in the world! There’s no better place to have a book flung from coast to coast! Unfortunately, Canada has one of the highest shipping costs in the world, which makes ordering books online a lot less fun. Every Canadian who has ever tried to buy online knows the gutting disappointment of seeing $13 shipping on a $4 book. Well, hopefully it’ll keep our used bookstores in business.

2. The us/Canadian cover price difference

Once upon a time, though you wouldn’t believe it now, the US and Canadian dollars were on par. Little known fact: this was the worst time to work in a Canadian bookstore. Because despite the dollars being the same, books were still printed with the Canadian price and US price side by side, and wow, was there ever a gap between them. Though the Canadian dollar isn’t as strong now, Canadian book lovers are still used to sighing at that US price and then paying the Canadian cover price that is only rarely accounted for by the exchange rate alone. There are a lot of factors that play into that difference, but because our books almost always show the US price above our price, it’s hard not to envy it.

3. us-only sales and giveaways

Of course, this (and several items on this list) is an international book lover problem, but it feels particularly striking when you live so close to US border. It doesn’t take long before Canadians on the bookternet just begin to assume any all-caps GIVEAWAY going around on twitter doesn’t apply to us. Damn our high shipping costs!

4. The lack of book subscriptions

Chalk another loss up to Canadian shipping costs–we rarely have book subscription services available to us. Or, if they are, it’s about half again the cost of the box itself to have it shipped to us. There are so many interesting subscription boxes out there now, packed with bookish goodies and exclusive items, not to mention carefully curated titles! The good news is, it’s a lot easier to choose between them when the majority aren’t available to you!

5. Canadian literature’s reputation

Even within Canada, it’s not uncommon for “Canadian authors” to bring up Anne of Green Gables, Margaret Atwood, and… not a lot else. Take a Canadian Literature class and there’s a good chance you’ll be introduced to a rich world of dry literary fiction. The good news is: there are lots of fantastic Canadian authors out there, writing in lots of different genres! The bad news is, it’s hard to find them, when only Canadian literary fiction seems to get any attention, and even that is pretty slight.

6. cover confusion

Canada gets an interesting mix of UK and USAmerican culture filtering in, which sometimes translates to being completely confused about which books people are talking about, because we got a version with a different title and/or cover. Sometimes we get the USAmerican one, sometimes the UK one, and sometimes our own version–oh, and sometimes it’s only the subtitle that’s changed (or the title has changed, but the subtitle has stayed the same). If you work in a Canadian bookstore, it means you get to experience everyone’s confusion! (But you also get very good at researching this kind of thing.)

7. netflix let-downs

So, you’re probably wondering what Canadians think of Anne with an E. After all, it’s the controversial new take on Canada’s most beloved series. I’m sure you’ve read tons of Canadian reviews of the show. You haven’t? Oh, right, that’s because it’s not on Canadian Netflix. Really? Anne? Not available in Canada? How dare you.

[EDITED TO ADD: I have been informed that Anne with an E is available to stream through CBC’s website in Canada!]

There are more Canadian bookish pet peeves, of course: stripping Canadian books of their setting in the movie adaptation, for instance, or trying to read while wearing mittens, but these are some of the ones that get under my skin. If you’re a Canadian reader, let me know your favourite and least favourite things about being bookish in Canada! If you’re from the US, I hope you appreciate your low shipping costs just a little bit more. And, of course, if you live anywhere else, let me know your bookish pet peeves about reading in your country!